Russia files new charges against ally of Kremlin critic Navalny

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian state investigators brought fresh charges against Lyubov Sobol, an ally of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, on Thursday, accusing her of violently entering a flat in December, her supporters said on Twitter.

The case against Sobol, who is under house arrest facing charges she flouted COVID-19 restrictions at a protest last month, comes amid a crackdown on Navalny's allies and supporters who have staged several rallies to protest against his jailing.

Most of Navalny's prominent allies are now in custody or under house arrest, but his supporters plan to stage a brief Valentine's Day protest in residential courtyards across the country this Sunday.

The new charges against Sobol relate to a case opened in December. Her supporters said she rang the doorbell of a flat owned by the family of a man who Navalny has said was an FSB security service officer involved in his poisoning.

The FSB has dismissed Navalny's account of the poisoning.

In its account, the Investigative Committee has said that Sobol and several others tried to gain entry to an elderly woman's flat in Moscow, wearing uniforms used by the state consumer health watchdog.

It accused her of tricking a delivery courier to enter the apartment block before barging into the woman's flat when she opened the door. It said Sobol was suspected of using violence to enter illegally.

Sobol's allies used her account on Twitter to say she considered the case to be political.

Navalny was poisoned in Siberia last summer with what many Western countries say was a military-grade nerve agent.

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Alex Richardson)